COVID-19: Implications for 2020–2021 Admissions

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most jurisdictions made modifications to their July 2020 and February and July 2021 bar exam administrations, some of which have implications for the admissions statistics on the following pages. (See also “COVID-19: Modifications to 2021 Bar Exams.”)

October 2020 Remote Testing Option: Score Transfer Agreements

The number of 2020 and 2021 admissions by transferred UBE score also includes those admitted by score transfer agreements among certain UBE jurisdictions that administered NCBE’s remote testing option on October 5–6,2020, instead of or in addition to the July or alternative-date 2020 UBE. The remote testing option did not constitute the full bar exam or the UBE; scores earned on the remote test were to be used for local admission decisions only and did not qualify as UBE scores.

The following 14 jurisdictions that (1) had adopted or were already administering the UBE in 2020 and (2) administered the October 2020 remote test, entered into score transfer agreements to accept scores from other UBE jurisdictions administering the remote test: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. These jurisdictions did not, however, separately report numbers for those admitted via remote test score transfer; these numbers are instead included in the numbers of admission via transferred UBE score. (Kentucky, which had adopted the UBE in 2020 but whose first UBE administration was in February 2021, did not begin accepting either UBE score transfers or remote exam score transfers until 2021.)

Washington, which did not administer the remote test in 2020, announced in March 2021 that it would accept remote test score transfers, for certain qualified applicants, from other jurisdictions that were UBE jurisdictions at the time of the October 2020 remote test administration.

These 15 jurisdictions are typically accepting remote exam score transfers for the same length of time as they do for UBE score transfers (which ranges from 2 years to 5 years).

Emergency Diploma Privilege/Examination Waiver

In July 2020, five jurisdictions adopted emergency diploma privilege/examination waiver rules allowing certain qualified candidates to be eligible for admission to the bar in that jurisdiction without taking the bar examination. In four of these jurisdictions, such candidates were also admitted in 2021. These admissions are not included in the “Admissions to the Bar by Examination and by Transferred UBE Score, 2017–2021” chart.

The five jurisdictions and their number of diploma privilege/examination waiver admissions in 2020 and 2021 are as follows:

  • District of Columbia (0 in 2020 [applications not accepted until 2021], 108 in 2021)
  • Louisiana (409 in 2020, 0 in 2021 [applications only accepted in 2020])
  • Oregon (240 in 2020, 9 in 2021)
  • Utah (130 in 2020, 41 in 2021)
  • Washington (498 in 2020, 54 in 2021)

Temporarily Lowered Passing Scores

Four jurisdictions temporarily lowered their passing scores for the July 2020 exam cycle, three of which extended their modifications into 2021:

  • Hawaii (lowered from 134 to 133 for the September 9–10, 2020, and February 2021 exams)
  • North Carolina (lowered from 270 to 268 for the July 2020 and February and July 2021 exams)
  • Oregon (lowered from 274 to 266 for the July 2020 exam)
  • Washington (lowered from 270 to 266 for the July 2020; September 9–10, 2020; and February and July 2021 exams; the 266 score also applied to the February 2022 exam).

Temporary Supervised Practice Rules

In July 2020, 31 jurisdictions expanded or adopted temporary supervised practice rules to allow qualified candidates to engage in the limited practice of law under the supervision of a licensed attorney until they were able to take the bar exam.

Delayed 2020 Admissions

Some jurisdictions experienced delays in 2020 admissions (such as delayed swearing-in ceremonies or delayed applicant submission of paperwork) such that certain admission requirements were not fulfilled until early 2021. As these delays were solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these admissions are included in the following chart as 2020 admissions.


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